Sunday, July 31, 2005
Some Changes/The Phantom Fiend
I am in the middle of revamping the site, so excuse the mess. It's also the busy time for people enrolling in college for Fall, so I've been busy with that as well.

The Ripper Legacy by Martin Howells and Keith Skinner is a book I just got; it's one of those seminal works on Jack the Ripper, yet I don't think it gets the recognition it deserves. Both authors have been invaluable to others in researching and unearthing new facts about the case for decades. If you want a well-written book that disproves many of the prevalent theories, this is the one.

I watched Phantom Fiend with Ivor Novello over the weekend. This movie is very hard to track down as it is a remake of The Lodger by Alfred Hitchcock with Ivor Novello reprising his role as the lodger. In Fiend, he is an Italian musician who falls in love with Daisy, an actress. The movie is only about an hour long and appears to go more for laughs than the subject matter would indicate. Plus, since Hitchcock wasn't involved, it is devoid of suspense or crisp direction. I've heard that Novello had a big hand in running the shoot, so that may account for it. Novello was a matinee idol, but that hardly qualified him to direct. All in all, Hitchcock's silent movie with it's evocative fog and claustrophobic sets succeeds in retelling Belloc-Lowndes story more faithfully than the follow-up Phantom Fiend.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 2:58 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Updated Jack the Ripper Books
I just received my updated version of Jack the Ripper A to Z, by Begg, Skinner and Fido. What's bad is that the edition is 1994. This is the last time this book has been revised. At Casebook and other places, you can read that this is a great book but has "some errors" in it. What are those errors, exactly? New editions are needed to address these and subsequent theories and information related to the case. What we don't need is an updated Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell with "new information." What new information? Now she has pictures of Sickert committing the crimes? She's "discovered" medical reports that actually support her medical claims about Sickert's fistula? Those are two reasons that would make me at least care.

Another book due for an update is Donald Rumbelow's The Complete Casebook of Jack the Ripper. I believe there is one available in Britain, but I'm not sure whether it's just a reissue or a revised one. Sadly, I've read where Rumbelow has rather grown tired of writing about Jack. But he does conduct a Ripper Walk in London, so maybe he's not that tired.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 2:32 PM | 3 comments

Sunday, July 24, 2005
Authors of Historical EBooks
I would like to invite any authors who have interest in writing or have written works set in the Victorian Era to submit it to this site. I have volunteered to be a reviewer for works set in my area. There are other areas available, so if you go to the site you can see the submission guidelines, etc. This is a free resource.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 4:58 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, July 23, 2005
3 New Jack Books
This week's mail brought three new Jack the Ripper-related books. They are:

Ritual in the Dark by Colin Wilson
The Jack the Ripper Suspects by Stan Russo
A Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper's London 1870-1900 by Neil R. Storey

I read part of Ritual years ago but finally have my own copy. It's tough to find a copy that's in good shape. Colin is one of the original "Ripperologists" and it's his account of the case that you'll read in many true-crime accounts of famous murders. This book is a novelization of the case that cuts back and forth through time. Weird, but in a good way.

Russo's book is the best amalgamation of the suspects, since other compendiums have concentrated on more general aspects of the case rather than on just the suspects. What I like is that the author doesn't pull punches on whether the suspect is a viable one or not. If it appears to be bull, Russo says it. It is in an easy-to-read style and no entry is overlong. Perhaps some could have been longer or some researchers would like more information about their particular suspect available in here, but that's not Russo's agenda. Plus, one gets the impression that if Russo wrote all that he knew about each suspect the book would run to multiple volumes. Well worth tracking down.

Storey's "Almanac" is amazing, simply amazing. Chock full of period photographs and a day-by-day account of news items either directly or tangentially related to Jack for thirty years, this book provides ambience during one's search for a suspect or simply the pleasure of reading about daily life in Victorian England. I've always thought that (as I believe either de Quincey or Lamb said) one can learn more about a society from their crimes than their accomplishments. This book is one of a series of "Grim Almanacs" for various British cities, so if you're interested just check out this book and the others suggested on the Amazon page.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 5:53 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Review at Blog Advance
Blog Advance is a site where you can request that your blog be reviewed. It may not be for everyone and I know it's tough to take criticism sometimes (for me, all the time) but it does have some positives in that it may induce you to look at your site differently and objectively depending on what your goal with the site is. If you are just wanting feedback, don't assume that this person will be easy on you (my blog was rated as mediocre). And if you don't really care about other's opinions and are just blogging as an outlet or for your own enjoyment, skip it as well. Still, I'm glad I had mine reviewed. The complete text of the review follows:

Infamous Criminal/Jack the Ripper and Me

This may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I personally enjoy reading about history and crimes and this blog caught my attention and peaked my interest straight away as it gives the impression of being more a fan site than an actual blog.

A lot of time and research has gone into this blog and although there is no fancy template or styles, it's really not needed as the writer sets out to keep it simple and concentrates more on quality of content rather than gimmicks and his hard work and attention to detail soon has you forgetting anything other than the history and story that is Jack the Ripper.

The writer is obviously interested and knowledgeable in his area of expertise and in a sea of political, personal and advertising blogs it is unique and stands out.

Sadly it is this exact quality that may make some overlook it, but to the fans of Jack the Ripper, this is a great site to visit and an opportunity to read on reviews of books and other things to do with the infamous criminal.

Although I enjoyed the read, unfortunately it's not one that I would bookmark to view later for updates. All in all it's still worthy of fans of the Victorian era and its criminology.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 10:30 AM | 2 comments

Friday, July 15, 2005
Completist?
I always think of myself as a completist Jack the Ripper buff. By that I mean, even if books, stories and or merchandise are only tangentially related to the case, I'll probably buy it. But lately I've been wondering. There are books described as "historical romances" that either feature Jack or use him in some fashion. I just can't bring myself to buy them, much less read them. Am I not a true Ripperologist, then? There are also Jack the Ripper condoms available in the UK. Don't get me wrong, I've got dolls (action figures!) of Jack, a beer mug, a shot glass, a coaster, a t-shirt, etc. I just don't think there are some things I'll buy into, literally and figuratively. Plus, the condom thing even makes me a little uneasy, considering Jack's attitude toward the fairer sex.

Also, there are some news stories that mention him, but I just shrug. One recent one talks about a man who killed a person and left a "Jack the Ripper" note on the body. I'm sorry, but that's just lame. You're already a sick bastard and you aren't even original enough to come up with your own style? They're riding the coattails of Jack as if they would ever in their diseased minds "achieve" or equate the notoriety and social impact of Jack. One of the reasons that Jack is so famous is that he was directly responsible for highlighting the conditions of the East End and in one case, the dark passageway where he killed one woman was ripped down and opened up in order to keep people from being waylaid in that area again. Even George Bernard Shaw called him a "solitary genius" for bringing the plight of poor people to the attention of those who would rather have ignored them. So no one's going to see stories on this blog about this latest guy, the Yorkshire Ripper, BTK (anymore, besides the recent one where the author of a book about BTK mentioned Jack), Jack the Stripper, etc. If that makes me an IN-completist, so be it.

There are other famous cases that interest me, such as Crippen, Wallace, H. H. Holmes, The Priory Murder, Bartlett, Maybrick, Wayne Williams, Haigh, Cora Pearl (not a murderer, but fascinating), Vlad Tepes, Pomeroy, to name a few. I just have a problem with sequels, I guess.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 10:49 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The More Things Change Part Two (Far from the Madding Crowd)
I'm an idiot. I know that's not news in a general way, but I should have know that Hardy would not let his story play out without evoking some emotional response from the reader. (Check out my post on Tess here.)This is actually a very good book. Yes, you didn't know that before I said it, did you? But gee, a woman who falls for the jerk and forsakes another, more stable person while another man moons after her for years? I bet Yeta, who's father was the chief caveman, went with Ook because he had bison teeth in a necklace, thus proving he was a bad boy, and didn't care that sweet, attentive Tor was destined to become the new chief someday.

If you read the previous post, you see the, what--love square instead of triangle? Oak and Boldwood are in love with Bathsheba, but a Sergeant Troy shows up to throw everything into a muddle. Bathsheba falls for the guy, even though he was supposed to wed someone else. Oak is his own stupid self, working on her farm and loving her from afar. Boldwood asks her to marry him and she refuses. All sorts of sordid things are done by York, of course. Oak brings in the harvest, takes care of the sheep. It all ends when Troy meets his old flame on the road and promises to give her some money. His wife is with him and he tries to play it off. But his old flame dies on the way to the meeting place because she is tired, cold, hungry and pregnant. So Troy is the last to know of her death and throws himself into the river. Just his luck, a boat comes along and rescues him and he leaves for America, letting everyone believe he's dead. (Oak brings in the harvest, takes care of the sheep). Boldwood pressures Bathsheba to give up on Troy and promise to marry him in 7 years, when her husband can be declared officially dead. She tells him she'll answer at Christmas. Boldwood throws a big party and Bathsheba attends to let him down, but weasels out of it. Then there is a knock on the door and Troy reappears. He grabs Bathsheba, she screams and Boldwood shoots Troy dead. Oak leaves the harvest and sheep long enough to see the dead body in the parlor. Boldwood gives himself up, is sentenced to death then has the sentence commuted. Oak, finally tiring of the harvest and the sheep, tells Bathsheba he's leaving her to go to America. She has the nerve to be upset. Hardy writes:

The next morning brought the culminating stroke; she had been expecting it long. It was a formal notice by letter from him that he should not renew his engagement with her for the following Lady-day.

Bathsheba actually sat and cried over this letter most bitterly. She was aggrieved and wounded that the possession of hopeless love from Gabriel, which she had grown to regard as her inalienable right for life, should have been withdrawn just at his own pleasure in this way.


So, of course, Bathsheba runs after Oak and they get married. But how happy can they be? Hardy states:

Bathsheba smiled (for she never laughed readily now), and their friends turned to go.

Oh, what joy! She smiled! This bodes well. "You're my bronze medal, Oak!" Hardy has a little discussion about how men and women don't know each other equally, since, at least at this time, they didn't work together but only "knew each other through their pleasures." The implication is that the closeness Oak and Bathsheba had was reinforced by their working together and endurance of catastrophe. But is this enough to make for a "happily ever after?" If so, why did it take so long, and why is it happening only when all of Oak's competition is gone?

Hardy is brilliant. He comes up with this melodramatic stuff and not once did I say, "No way, never happens." Instead, I'm yelling at the characters for being so stupid, so blind, so selfish, so...human.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 4:46 PM | 4 comments

Far from the Madding Crowd (Ouch!)
I'm reading Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (if you ever want to send a professor into a snit, call Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer's Night Dream" or this book Far from the Maddening Crowd). I've grown weary of Hardy, as it appears that he saw more to enjoy in rural life than I do. Still, this book is pretty good; a straightforward tale of a woman with more suitors than sense. But from the same author as Tess and Mayor of Casterbridge, it's pretty tame. Here is a scene where Oak, who proposed to Bathsheba when he has his farm, has lost it and now has to work for her as a shepherd. He spies her talking to a prosperous farmer (Boldwood) and knows that she will eventually marry the farmer.

She left Boldwood's side, and he walked up and down alone for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then she reappeared in her new riding-habit of myrtle-green, which fitted her to the waist as a rind fits its fruit; and young Bob Coggan led on her mare, Boldwood fetching his own horse from the tree under which it had been tied.

Oak's eyes could not forsake them; and in endeavouring to continue his shearing at the same time that he watched Boldwood's manner, he snipped the sheep in the groin. The animal plunged; Bathsheba instantly gazed towards it, and saw the blood.


Wow. That's not symbolic or anything.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 11:42 AM | 1 comments

Sunday, July 10, 2005
MST3K/Jack
I'm a Mystery Science Theater 3000 buff, and am puzzled by the long waits between collections released by Rhino Home Video. From what I hear, this is because they only release films as they come into public domain so as to avoid copyright fees. Still, they seem to only be released in dribs and drabs. I guess it's better than nothing. Anyway, Rhino is now asking which movies the fans want to see in the next collection. If you click here, you can tell the Rhino folks your favorites. This site is also the official home for the fan club if you want to buy merchandise, etc.

A man who was writing a book about the BTK killer was told that BTK may resurface because he was addicted to the notoriety and the book would force him to comment. Quoted from a Kansas newspaper concerning the BTK killer:

The same detective who warned Beattie that his book might smoke BTK out from hiding predicted that if he ever did reappear he would be caught "within 10 days," Beattie said. When that didn't happen, "I started becoming concerned," he said. "I had to start thinking about the possibility they may never catch this guy. We might have another Jack the Ripper."

Of course, BTK was captured not too long afterward.

Rader [Dennis Rader, arrested BTK suspect] has confirmed that learning about Beattie's book prompted him to resurface after 25 years of silence, saying that Beattie was likely "gloating" now.

You may have conflicting opinions about whether Jack wrote the letters to the press, but the BTK case is one instance where if the killer had kept his mouth shut, he would have gotten away with it.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 7:35 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, July 07, 2005
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Britain

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:42 PM | 1 comments

Ripper Newspaper Headline

Ripper Newspaper Headline
Originally uploaded by lctbron.
This is the coolest headline font, etc. This is why the Victorian Era is so great. The cobblestones, the dress, the hansom cabs, the newspaper type.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 3:12 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Wilding's Book
I decided (if anyone cares) not to devote too much time to the John Wilding book Jack the Ripper Revealed. At least, in reviewing it. This is partly because it's awful, and partly because there are too many things to deal with in it. I would end up rewriting the whole book itself. Waste of time.

What I can do is refer to The Ripper Lady's post on Sherlock Holmes and what she says about "induction vs. deduction." I believe she was referring to Cornwell's book, but it also applies here. Ripper Lady uses the old axiom:
1) Men are mortal
2) Aristotle is a man
3) Aristotle is mortal

Makes sense, right? One fact follows another until you get to the most specific fact. Suffice to say, Wilding doesn't do this. He starts with a 1 and 2 that prove 3 without proving 1 and 2 in the first place!

Wilding takes the royal conspiracy to an absurd height by proposing that Prince Bertie, next in line to the throne, had a liason with Mary Kelly and left a "souvenir" with her. Multiple entendres, as Phil Ken Sebben would say. He left an heirloom and also made her pregnant. She decides to blackmail him. So far, so much crap, but at least plausible. What Wilding says is that M. J. Druitt, a failed barrister and J. K. Stephen, tutor to Prince Eddy (Bertie's son) take it upon themselves as loyal royalists to silence everyone who knows about the affair and Mary herself. Yet at one point, they use Mary to lure one of the prostitutes to her death! Then they have a falling out and Druitt is murdered to silence him. Okay, I promised myself that I wouldn't give this more air than it deserves. To use the formula, though:

1) "Druitt and Stephen knew each other." Not proven. There's a lot of "could have known," "may have known the same people" line of crap that wouldn't pass the laugh test.
2) "Druitt and Stephen were best friends, so close that they would do anything for each other." See #1
3) "Druitt and Stephen were such staunch loyalists that they would do anything to save the crown." There's no proof Druitt cared one way or another about the crown and to put forth a blanket statement that every English person would care enough to commit murder on behalf of the crown is just stupid, which is what Wilding must be saying because he never gives a reason for Druitt's involvement, except as a purported (not proven) lover of Stephens. Stephen, tutor to Prince Eddy, was a nutjob who wrote bad poetry, but no one knows anything about his political leanings. His family was distinguished, and his relative was the judge in the Maybrick fiasco, but that says nothing about him. The only interesting thing is that he was related to Virginia Woolf, another person who suffered mental illness and then committed suicide. Reading some of her works, I see why. :)

And on and on. Really, the completist Ripperphile would have this book, but don't get it if you want to learn anything about the case. It's full of inaccuracies and errors. At one point, Wilding refers to the book The Mystery of Jack the Ripper by Leonard Maltin. Either Wilding just got mixed up or he was already eyeing the film version of his book, because the author of the Mystery of Jack the Ripper was Leonard MATTERS, not Maltin, who is a film critic. This is typical of the book. Plus a lot of "it's" vs. "its" type mistakes that drive English teachers crazy. Would the book be a tour-de-force with the mistakes corrected by a punctilious copyeditor? No. Even getting beyond the errors, there's not enough here to sustain the interest of anyone outside of a Ripper nutjob who needs to read everything about the case. Like me.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:40 PM | 5 comments

Regarding the Pooh Characters as Potential Suspects
Rachel said...
"Eeyore had manic depression? Hmm...I remember the depression part, but apparently I missed out on the episodes where he was in the manic phase. Though the thought of Eeyore running frantically to find his tail would be amusing."

Don't you remember? Eeyore lost his tail in Glouston Street after trolling for prostitutes and it was found next to the graffito supposedly written by Jack the Ripper. Hence, he was a suspect before Piglet. I just remember that Eeyore was the depressed one. True, manically depressed may be overstating it. Perhaps there were times off the set where he went nuts and got into barfights. A couple of years ago, they were selling an Eeyore where you could ask it a question and it would answer. But the answers were like, "I don't know," and "Oh well." Seriously. This guy needs Tom Cruise to help him find happiness.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 4:53 PM | 4 comments

Friday, July 01, 2005
Jack the Trotter
Seems we have another suspect. A story in the Seattle Times announces the death of John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. He played a multitude of characters, including a time-travelling Jack-the-Ripper in a 1967 Star Trek episode, Wolf in the Fold. Who can say where Piglet was at the time of the murders? He seemed to blend so well into the backround, with Pooh the Alpha bear and Tigger the hophead. Even Eeyore got sympathy and fans with his manic depression. But Piglet. . . hmmm. Perfect cover.

Another story rehashes Marriot's book as well as Uncle Jack.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 10:32 AM | 3 comments

Thomas Neill Cream
Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Frederick Deeming
The Bravo Case
Madeleine Smith
Constance Kent
William Palmer
My Ripper Inventory
JTRForums.com
Ripper Notes
Ripperologist
Hollywood Ripper
Jack the Ripper Forum
Archives: Jack the Ripper
The Whitechapel Society
Largest German Jack the Ripper Site
The Victorian Web
Victorian Dictionary
Victoria Research Web

The Final Solution by Walter Harmidarow
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